Self-Care for Parents When a Child is Ill

In 2017, my young son was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. My world was flipped upside down in an instant. Any family that has faced a difficult diagnosis knows this all too well.

A child’s illness may be an extreme example, but all parents could benefit from the tools of self-care. Parenting can be hard. Babies don’t come with instructions. As parents, we learn very quickly to adapt and figure out what to do. How to take comfort a screaming baby, how to take care of a toddler having a tantrum, how to show up for your child in the hospital. Sometimes we become very good at taking care of others and not so great at taking care of ourselves.

When we do not take care of ourselves, we can struggle, physically, mentally, emotionally.
When faced with stress and challenges, our nervous system gets overloaded, and we can become tired, irritable, or anxious. We can get physically sick ourselves or feel depressed.

 Self-care offers tools to help. Self-care helps fortify yourself, so you can deal with what is in front of you with strength and grace. In a situation, like illness, where much is beyond your control, if you take care of yourself, you will be better prepared to face what life presents.

Here are 5 self-care tips you can do to help bring more ease into your life.

1. Exercise your body everyday

Exercise your body every day. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Go for a walk, a bike ride, a run, dance to music in your house. Whatever feels fun to you, as long as you are moving and you break a sweat.

2. Breathe

Find 1 minute to sit and take a few deep intentional breaths. This can be done anywhere. Breathing in deeply and slowly through your nose and exhaling completely through your nose.

3. Keep a Journal

 Use words or draw pictures. Give yourself a space to express yourself freely, no judgement.

4. Gratitude list

Challenge yourself to think of 10 good things, things you are grateful for before you fall asleep at night.

5. Talk

Talk to a friend, a clergy member, or a trusted professional. Find support. You are not alone.

Sending you all the best in whatever you are facing. How do you take care of yourself?

About the Author

Samarrah Clayman, mother, social worker, and writer lives in Lexington, Massachusetts. She is the co-founder of The Ependymoma Research Foundation, which funds pediatric brain tumor research. Her newest children’s book: “Will Jax Be Home for Thanksgiving?” is coming out in November. You can find out more and at

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